Tigers thwart Terps

Fourth loss in row in series imperils NCAA aspirations Clemson 89 Maryland 77

February 15, 2006|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson came into last night's game against Maryland with one of the worst offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and without its leading scorer.

It didn't matter.

The Tigers found a way to beat Maryland an unprecedented three times last season, and they found a way to do it again last night, significantly decreasing the Terps' chances of getting to the NCAA tournament.

The struggling Tigers used an 11-0 run in the second half to pull away from an otherwise tightly contested game and beat Maryland, 89-77, before a Valentine's Day crowd of 7,600 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Just like last year, the win against Maryland (15-9, 5-6 ACC) halted a five-game losing streak for the Tigers. It is the first time Clemson (15-10, 4-8 ) has beaten Maryland in four straight games since 1949 to 1951 .

Fortunately for the Terps, they only play Clemson once this season.

There are only five regular-season games left on the schedule, and Maryland needs to win three of them to finish .500 in the conference and have a realistic chance at going to the NCAA tournament.

Yesterday was supposed to be one of its better chances.

Maryland trailed 57-51 with 15:23 remaining when sophomore forward James Gist accidentally knocked in a shot for Clemson and started a run that changed the game. The Tigers followed with nine unanswered points for a 68-51 lead with 11:04 remaining. The gap would grow to 18, and the Terps never got closer than seven points after that.

Maryland's perimeter defense has struggled all season, and last night was no exception - even against the team with the worst three-point percentage in the ACC. After making seven three-pointers in the first half, Clemson again came out shooting and made another three within the first five minutes of the second period. Maryland junior guard Mike Jones, the Terps' top perimeter shooter, had an answer for only some of them. He also spent the waning minutes of the second half on the bench with a bag of ice on his left knee.

Clemson senior guard Shawan Robinson hit his fifth three-pointer of the game as the shot clock expired, putting put the Tigers ahead 55-50 with 15:54 left to play. Two free throws by Akin Akingbala capped an 8-0 run for a 57-50 lead.

Robinson started in place of an injured Vernon Hamilton , the Tigers' leading scorer, and he made the most of it. Robinson, who made 14 three-pointers in Clemson's three-game sweep of the Terps last year, again troubled Maryland from three-point range. He made four of eight in the first half alone. It wasn't as if Maryland was having a poor night shooting, as the Terps shot 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, including the five of six made by senior forward Nik Caner-Medley.

Clemson's defense, though, prevented the Terps from making any significant runs. The Tigers had 10 steals in the first half, including two in which they took the ball right out of the hands of Parrish Brown and Sterling Ledbetter while the point guards were trying to set up Maryland's offense. Freshman guard K.C. Rivers had four steals in the first half.

The only run Maryland made in the first half was in the first two minutes, when the Terps jumped out to a 6-0 lead. It didn't last long, though. Robinson scored six points on back-to-back threes to keep the Tigers in the game.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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